Saudi could lead new Somali peace drive – UN official


Ahmed Ould-Abdallah, U.N. special envoy for Somalia, also urged the United Nations to work harder to tackle what its officials have called Africa’s worst humanitarian crisis.

He told the Security Council the world’s "wait and see" attitude had failed to solve Somalia’s problems. It was time to decide whether to give up and withdraw all international support — which currently includes U.N. humanitarian aid and the AU peacekeeping force — or find a new strategy.

"The United Nations must launch diplomatic action to mobilize a consensus to stabilize the country," he said, warning that the world body’s credibility was at stake.

John Holmes, the top U.N. humanitarian official, said this month that half the population of Mogadishu, or 600,000 people, had fled persistent fighting since Somalia’s transitional government came to power after ousting militant Islamists early this year.

Ould-Abdallah called for a new initiative to reinforce a hard-pressed and under-funded AU peacekeeping force that has yet to be fully deployed. Such a force could be an interim step before a U.N. peacekeeping force could be deployed.

"For this, Saudi Arabia, the custodian of the two Muslim holiest sites and a close neighbor with many Somali refugees, should be invited to play a leading role," Ould-Abdallah said, noting that Saudi Arabia had shown its willingness to help by inviting Somali leaders to the kingdom in October.

He said he had not discussed such a plan with Saudi Arabia but it would not necessarily involve sending Saudi troops.

"They have moral authority," Ould-Abdallah told reporters.

Last month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon raised the idea of a "coalition of the willing" to help Somalia. Ould-Abdallah said a Saudi-led drive to reinforce the AU force was in line with that idea and the force could include Middle Eastern or Asian units, with financial or technical support from others.

"Support from one or two NATO member states should be made available if necessary," he told the council.


The Somali government has long urged the United Nations to send peacekeepers but Ban has said it is too dangerous even to send an assessment team to plan for it. African countries are also stretched by demands for peacekeepers as a U.N.-AU force of up to 26,000 prepares to deploy in Darfur from January.

Several council members said on Monday it was vital to keep making contingency plans for a U.N. force for Somalia.

The AU force, AMISOM, is supposed to number some 8,000 troops but only around 1,600 Ugandans have actually arrived.

Ould-Abdallah said political progress was in the hands of the Somali government, which he urged to engage with the opposition to establish a national unity government.

Somalia has been plagued by anarchy since warlords toppled military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

International intervention in Somalia has a poor record.

The 1993 shooting down of two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters by militiamen in Mogadishu deeply shocked U.S. public opinion, precipitating American withdrawal and contributing to the ending of a U.N. peacekeeping operation in 1995.


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